CBD has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, making it a promising candidate for managing the symptoms of sciatica. Here’s all you need to know about CBD for sciatica. Using CBD for sciatica might reduce symptoms and create more relief. Here’s what you need to know about using CBD for sciatica.
CBD for Sciatica: How It Works, Safety, Drug Interactions, & Best Products
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a popular natural health supplement with broad-acting anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and pain-relieving properties that make it a gentle and effective option for those looking to address muscle and nerve pain — like sciatica.
Here’s everything you need to know about how using CBD for sciatica symptoms.
Table of Contents
- What Is Sciatica?
- How CBD Works For Sciatica
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a peripheral neuropathic pain disorder that occurs when the sciatic nerve is damaged, pinched, or compressed. This often happens as the result of a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or spinal stenosis.
The pain associated with sciatica can take the form of sharp pain, numbness, tingling in the lower back that jolts down into the affected leg. For some patients, even simple spasms like sneezing can cause acute sciatica pain.
Sciatic nerve damage is often easily remedied, but it can also become a chronic disorder that may require surgery. Nonetheless, sciatica is painful and uncomfortable and produces significant inflammation in the body.
How Is Sciatica Treated?
Treatments for sciatica are usually focused on reducing inflammation and muscle spasms, managing pain, and preventing future injuries.
Although some sciatica patients need further care, most people can move on from sciatic nerve pain after a relatively short time with at-home care after a visit from a movement rehabilitation clinic.
Caring for sciatica at home is as simple as soothing the muscles and reducing the inflammation as much as possible. Taking a warm bath in Epsom salts, icing and heating the lower back, and taking anti-inflammatory medication can all help reduce sciatica symptoms.
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about sciatica if the symptoms persist beyond a few weeks.
How CBD Works For Sciatica
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main pharmacologically active component in hemp plants that have been shown to have broad-acting applications towards pain, healthy stress management, and much more.
CBD primarily alleviates pain by targeting the nerve cells directly. This makes it especially promising for nerve-related pain such as sciatica.
Here’s how it works:
CBD Reduces Inflammation
One of the leading causes of pain is inflammation.
When it comes to sciatica, inflammation may cause swelling that pinches or compresses the sciatic nerve in the low back. When it comes to managing sciatica pain, reducing inflammation through heat and cold therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are popular treatment methods.
CBD is an excellent anti-inflammatory compound because it works through multiple pathways involved with the inflammatory response compared to many anti-inflammatory medications, which only address one enzyme in the inflammatory process .
Related article: CBD For Inflammation
CBD May Offer Some Relief For Nerve Pain
Nerve pain or neuropathic pain is difficult to treat, but CBD has been shown to be effective at supporting neuropathic conditions through its unique interactions in the endocannabinoid system.
Not only does CBD reduce inflammation, as we’ve previously mentioned, but it increases anandamide levels — a neurotransmitter that binds to endocannabinoid receptors that stimulate bliss and wellness, which can help to manage pain.
CBD has also been shown to activate vanilloid and opioid receptors to block pain signals from the nerve to the spinal cord and brain. These findings have been observed in both internal consumption of CBD (smoking and eating) as well as topical applications .
In a recent study, patients reported a significant reduction in pain and uncomfortable symptoms, like itchiness or cold sensations, after using CBD oil to topically treat peripheral neuropathy .
CBD Has A Much Lower Risk For Abuse
Pain is the number one reason people become hooked on dangerous opioid drugs.
Several of the drugs used to treat sciatica pain are habit-forming, and tolerance is quickly developed. CBD is most effective for addressing pain in inflammation at higher doses (50 mg CBD or more). The good thing is that CBD is found to be well-tolerated and has very minimal, short-term adverse effects .
How To Use CBD For Sciatica
There are many different ways to use CBD for sciatica. For most people, this stubborn source of pain requires some pretty aggressive action. This means applying a high-strength CBD topical to the area (local pain relief) and taking some high-potency CBD oil, capsules, or gummies.
Some people even find topping these effects up with a few puffs on a vape pen every now and then help keep the pain control consistent and long-lasting.
1. CBD Oils For Sciatica
CBD oils come in all shapes and sizes. If your goal is to use it for general health and wellness, a simple 1000 mg oil should do the trick.
However, if your goal is to use it for hard-to-treat neuropathic pain conditions, such as sciatica, you’re very likely to need something much stronger.
Aim for something with at least 60 mg per mL. This works out to around 2000 mg per 1 oz (30 mL) bottle.
Full-spectrum oils are generally considered superior for managing nerve pain to a CBD isolate.
2. CBD Gummies For Sciatica
Oils and gummies serve the same purpose. CBD gummies are just a little bit more pleasant to use and makes figuring out the dosage simpler.
Look for gummies with high-potency broad-spectrum or full-spectrum extract. Most gummies are made from CBD isolate, which won’t work quite as well for nerve pain. Many of the other cannabinoids aside from CBD have analgesic and neuroregulatory benefits.
3. CBD Topicals For Sciatica
Many people with sciatica choose to combine both internal CBD (like oils or gummies) with a topical.
CBD topicals have faster relief but won’t work as thoroughly or for as long.
Your best bet is to opt for a high-potency, full-spectrum topical with at least 6 mg per mL (more is even better).
We like topicals with other painkilling ingredients the best — such as the Pain Cream from Kiara Naturals (Called Joint Cream, but it works for all sources of pain). This formula includes camphor, arnica, and menthol for added effect.
4. Other Cannabinoids For Sciatica
CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid with pain-killing benefits. When it comes to neuropathic-specific pain, the other options to consider are CBG (cannabigerol), CBN (cannabinol), THC (both delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC), and a novel cannabinoid called THCC.
Will CBD Interact With My Sciatica Medications?
All drugs that have a pharmacological effect bring the risk of side effects or interaction with other drugs or supplements. CBD is no different.
While this compound has a very high level of safety and isn’t known to cause any major side effects on its own, it could interfere with the effects of other, more dangerous prescription medications.
Common sciatica medications and their potential for negative drug interactions with CBD include:
CBD may interact with anti-inflammatory drugs by slowing the metabolism in the liver. It’s unlikely for there to be any major side effects with this combination, but it’s wise to speak with your doctor if you’re using corticosteroids like prednisone and want to take CBD.
B) Muscle Relaxants
Muscle relaxants used for sciatica include Lioresal (baclofen), Soma (carisoprodol), Lorzone (chlorzoxazone), and Fexmid (cyclobenzaprine).
All of these medications bring a high risk of side effects. Combining CBD with these medications could (theoretically) lead to a higher incidence of side effects. However, in practice, side effects from this interaction are uncommon. Always speak to your doctor before combining CBD with muscle relaxants.
C) Opioid Pain Medications
Opiates are, by far, the most common and potent class of painkillers. They work for all kinds of pain, including neuropathic pain conditions like sciatica.
The problem is that opioids commonly lead to side effects, can be addictive, and have the potential to cause overdose if used incorrectly.
CBD and opioids have a moderate to low risk of negative interaction but should be used very cautiously together.
CBD could slow the metabolism and elimination of these medications, leading to a buildup of the drug in the body with repeated doses. This could be very dangerous.
CBD may interact with drugs such as buprenorphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, tramadol, and others.
Depression is a common side effect of any chronic pain condition — including but not limited to sciatica.
For this reason, it’s common for doctors to prescribe antidepressants along with other, more direct medical interventions.
CBD has the potential to interact with all major classes of antidepressants, including SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, and tricyclic antidepressants.
In most cases, the interaction won’t cause any noticeable side effects, but sensitive individuals or people taking high doses of both the drug and CBD may experience adverse reactions with this combination. Talk to your doctor if you’re on any prescription antidepressants.
Summary: CBD Oil For Sciatica
Sciatica is a painful and uncomfortable peripheral neuropathy disorder. It’s often treated with muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and narcotics, but CBD can treat all the same symptoms these drugs seek to fix.
CBD can reduce inflammation, calm muscle spasms, and reduce pain associated with nerve damage. Using CBD for sciatica is as simple as rubbing a topical on the lower back and leg or taking an oral CBD product.
Be cautious about using CBD if you’re taking any prescription medications to manage your symptoms. Speak with your doctor before using CBD to ensure there aren’t any potential red flags about mixing CBD with your medications.
CBD for Sciatica: Here’s what you need to know
The sciatic nerve runs throughout the lower back and the legs, and when it is pushed too hard or rubbed the wrong way, it can cause terrible pain over a vast area.
There are many causes of sciatic pain, from herniated discs to bone spurs in the spine. Any of them can be complicated by factors such as obesity, passive lifestyle, advanced age, and diabetes.
As a chronic pain issue that impacts everyday life, people with sciatica have limited options. Painkillers and over-the-counter meedications are only so effective, not to mention potentially harmful. Many patients seek out alternative treatments, including CBD products such as oils and topicals.
In this post, we explore whether CBD can help with the management of sciatic pain, and provide our opinion on the best CBD brand for sciatica in 2020. We’ll talk about what sciatica is, who gets it, how it feels, and how CBD can work to treat it. We’ll explain why we like Spruce CBD generally and why we like Spruce CBD oil and Spruce CBD salve as complementary therapy for sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
Mayo Clinic describes sciatica as a painful sensation radiating from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and branches through the hips, buttocks, and legs. Obviously, this means aggravation of the nerve and sciatica can cause hip pain, leg pain, or back pain—and all of these symptoms of sciatica typically occur on one side of the body.
These factors make sciatica confusing. For example, it can seem like a localized injury on one side. But what’s really going on in each case—whether it’s a herniated disk, bone spurs (hard bumps forming on the spine), or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spine)—is compression of the sciatic nerve causing pain, numbness, and tingling in affected areas.
Sciatica can also cause regular motion to feel much more difficult because the feet and legs feel weak. Even the sudden movements caused by normal motion from coughing or sneezing can exacerbate sciatic nerve pain as motion shakes the nerve.
Although sciatica can last a very long time, in most cases, sciatica is a temporary condition lasting between four to six weeks.
A slipped disc from an injury is the most common cause of sciatica. When the soft tissue between other bones and the spine is moved out of place, a slipped disc can occur. This can lead the spine to push against the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.
It is difficult to treat slipped discs because they don’t typically go back in place or heal well on their own once they become dislodged from their original position beneath the vertebrae. As a result, a slipped disc often leads to chronic, frustrating conditions that can include intense, day-to-day pain.
Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal and resulting compression of spinal cord nerves, is another very common cause of sciatic nerve pain. Spinal stenosis is frequently mistaken for general leg or back pain and typically occurs in older people.
Spondylolisthesis, a problem that causes the vertebrae to slip out of place, causing friction between the bones and the sciatic nerve, can also trigger sciatica. Spondylolisthesis is one of the leading causes of lower back pain, and many people do not realize they have it.
When protective discs that offer padding between the spinal cord and bones start to break down, it can cause discomfort and pain from pressure on the sciatic nerve. This is called degenerative disc disease, and it is another cause of sciatica.
Who is Likely to Suffer from Sciatic Pain?
Sciatica is, at a minimum, irritating. Just coughing or sneezing can be enough to trigger pain. Severe sciatica can cause intense pain that compromises ability to function, let alone perform.
Risk factors for sciatica include:
- Aging. Over time, the body’s discs become damaged and stressed. The sciatic nerve becomes irritated as bone spurs develop.
- Sedentary lifestyle. People such as office workers who sit for long periods of time are more prone to sciatica. This is because without the relief it gets from intermittent movement, the spine is under pressure for too long just from being held still. Mitigate this issue by using a high quality chair and getting up to take breaks frequently.
- Certain jobs. Some jobs are more likely to place extra stress on the spine or create injury by requiring the worker to carry heavy loads, twist their back, or otherwise perform risky tasks.
- Overweight. Carrying too much weight pressures the spinal cord and may trigger sciatica.
Of course, many people are susceptible to multiple risk factors. For example, someone who is overweight, doesn’t get much exercise, is older, and suffers from diabetes is at high risk for sciatica.
This is even more true if they work in a job involving heavy physical labor—particularly if they lead an otherwise passive lifestyle. Whether you’re sitting at a desk for eight hours at a time or engaging in repetitive motions, sciatic nerve pain is more likely to develop in people who work these types of jobs.
My Sciatica Issues: From One of Our Testers
As a kid I remember watching my grandmother struggle to stand up, grabbing her hip in pain. Later, as a young adult, it was my aunt who was suffering from sciatica. Now it’s me.
I’ve been coping with sciatic pain for about ten years now—since my late 30s. At first that shooting pain down my leg and back was just startling. Now it’s a serious problem, and some days I’m hunched over like an oldster.
I don’t have health insurance, but even if I did, I’m familiar with the traditional routine because my aunt went through it for years (and she still is). Cortisone shots last for a few weeks—and they don’t feel great going in, trust me. They’re still the best thing going, but they are less and less effective.
Muscle relaxers are a non-starter. They don’t work and make you gorked out. Stretching and yoga are excellent, but they can’t put a stop to sciatica pain that is already there. (Do them anyway!)
That’s why CBD is a really useful tool in the sciatic pain relief toolbox.
How Can CBD Help Relieve Symptoms of Sciatica?
Neuropathic pain is the kind that irritation, inflammation, or neural tissue compression causes. Nociceptive pain is triggered as the body reacts to painful stimuli, such as when the inflammatory response is triggered, and it does not itself cause nerve damage.
Sciatica generally causes both neuropathic and nociceptive pain, and research indicates that CBD can alleviate both types.
Cannabidiol or CBD is a critical part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), binding with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to send signals about conditions and restore homeostasis or balance in your body. In this role, CBD and other cannabinoids fight pain and inflammation, and therefore can help treat sciatica and other health issues.
Research has already proven that CBD is a potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Specific research also seems to support the idea that CBD can treat neuropathic pain—and this is certainly an element of sciatica. The remaining inflammatory response is also something that CBD can treat, as research indicates.
So, although no study has directly investigated the effectiveness of CBD in treating sciatic pain in humans, there is ample anecdotal evidence and plenty of suggestive science out there to make trying it a sound idea.
CBD oil will not cure sciatica; it doesn’t address the underlying issues such as compression of the sciatic nerve. However, its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties can alleviate some of the worst symptoms.
Conventional therapies for sciatica include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and other over-the-counter painkillers. Doctors also recommend ice or hot packs and physical therapy.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a popular choice, but they only relieve nociceptive pain and inflammation, not neuropathic pain. In contrast, CBD oil has proven to have anticonvulsant and antidepressant benefits in addition to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Pros and Cons of Using CBD to Treat Sciatica
- Safe. CBD has a very high safety profile and is well-tolerated by humans, even at high doses of as much as 1500mg daily.
- Legal. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, it is legal to produce and sell hemp-derived CBD oil, despite the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still has yet to meaningfully regulate the area or acknowledge that hemp-based products have therapeutic qualities.
- Easy. It is simple to find CBD products over the counter without a prescription, in contrast to medical marijuana products, which require some kind of authorization except in recreational states.
- Variety. CBD is available in a huge range of products, from gummies to tinctures, topicals, and vapes.
- Side effects. CBD oil has a few minor side effects despite its high safety profile, including dry mouth, fatigue, and appetite changes.
- Interactions. If you take prescription medications, you should always talk to a medical practitioner before supplementing with CBD because it may interact with some medications.
- Uncertainty. The research in support of CBD as sciatica treatment remains inconclusive.
What Types of CBD Work Best for Sciatica: CBD Oil or CBD Topicals?
This is a good question, although to a very real extent this will vary somewhat from person to person. Pain management is very personal. Still, there are a few ways to consider how to identify the best CBD for sciatica in your case:
Full-spectrum CBD and the entourage effect
CBD products may offer full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD retains all of the naturally-occurring phytonutrients from the hemp plant. This enables full-spectrum CBD products to produce the entourage effect, the result of multiple terpenes and cannabinoids working together in synergy to create greater benefits and/or function more efficiently.
The entourage effect is still produced by broad-spectrum CBD to some extent, but broad-spectrum products lack the trace amounts of THC that full-spectrum extracts retain. CBD isolates remove all other terpenes and cannabinoids, somewhat reducing the effectiveness of the CBD—so these products are best for people who regularly get tested for drugs.
Lame as it is, there are still some states that place limits on even hemp-derived CBD products, including where they can be bought and how they are labeled. Since marijuana-derived products are regulated far more strictly, stick to hemp-based CBD products.
Buy CBD products from reputable brands. If you are shopping around, look for organically-grown hemp from the US and CBD products made with the heatless and solventless supercritical CO2 extraction method.
Look for CBD products that are independently tested for content analysis by a third-party laboratory. Reputable companies post lab reports online or make them available so you can see the potency of CBD and verify that the product is free of any contaminants and dangerous substances.
Read real customer reviews. Focus on third-party websites and blogs on the use of CBD, not just product websites. Explore flavor options or CBD capsules if you dislike the naturally bitter taste of hemp. Are you hoping for a topical or tincture treatment option? Something different like a vape or CBD gummies?
For sciatica, CBD topicals, such as CBD salves, creams, lotions, and gels, can treat localized pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs. Another excellent option is CBD tincture or oil sublingually twice a day.
Our Favorite CBD for Sciatica
Our favorite brand for treating sciatica? Spruce—and we like to hit it with a one-two punch of CBD oil in the form of 2,400mg Max Potency Full Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture and CBD topical in the form of Spruce 2,000mg Full Spectrum CBD Salve. Here’s why Spruce generally:
Quality. Spruce sources all of their hemp from family-owned Kentucky and Colorado farms known for sustainable, safe farming processes. These growers offer some of the highest potency and quality hemp and cannabis strains available for use for CBD consistently.
Process. Spruce extracts CBD using a unique technique with moonshine as a solvent to create a high-quality blend of high-CBD, low-level THC hemp seed oil. To ensure that there is zero aftertaste or effects from the moonshine, it is completely filtered out before bottling.
Purity. All Spruce CBD products are guaranteed to be free of harmful pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals, and are tested by an independent third party laboratory to prove it. Lab testing information is available on the site.
Service. Spruce ships free within the US and delivers within 2 to 4 days, typically. You qualify for a full refund after your first purchase according to their return policy if you return your purchase unopened according to directions.